MDA Ambassador Guest Blog: Love in Full Bloom on Camelback Mountain
By Doug Clough | Monday, February 12, 2024
5 Second Summary
MDA Ambassadors play an essential role in furthering MDA’s mission while representing and empowering the neuromuscular disease community. Quest Ambassador Guest Blog series provides a platform to share their personal stories, perspectives, and experience.
Doug Clough is 61 years old (OMG) and lives in Gilbert, AZ. Doug has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease) and a spinal cord injury (SCI). He uses a wheelchair, a ceiling lift, and a BiPap at night. He loves spending time reading the Bible and trying to sing worship songs (emphasize tries to sing) with his family watching his 10 grandkiddos grow up, making him feel much older than he is! Doug also enjoys supporting the state’s college and professional sports teams. He LOVES traveling and visiting our national parks and sharing the beauty with his beautiful wife.
Looking up at the back side of Camelback Mountain, in Phoenix, Arizona has always brought me great joy. Every time I drive near it, I look up and smile, often taking a photograph. It was, and still is, a very important place for me. It was where I proposed to Karen, my wife of more than 26 years, and where I embarked upon one of my most meaningful adventures since being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
My adventure began with an idea that I had not thought of in years. While having lunch with my friend, Letitia, she asked me what I would do if I could walk again.
I live with ALS and it’s been a few years since I could even take a single step. I told her that I try to live in the mindset of focusing on the things I can do. She asked the question again, and I replied that I would like to go up Camelback Mountain to the spot where I proposed to Karen. She asked how I came up with that idea and I replied that if Steve Gleason can be carried up Machu Picchu, then Camelback should be a breeze. We finished our lunch without discussing it any further.
A week or so after our lunch, Letitia called me on a Saturday and said that I absolutely had to answer a call that I would be getting on Sunday. Sundays are typically reserved for church and time with Karen, during which I usually unplug and don’t answer phone calls or texts. But I’m glad that I answered that call from Doug Fulton!. Not just because his name is also Doug, or that the ALS clinic I go to is named for his brother, but because we clicked almost immediately.
Doug called because he thought that he had a plan that would get me to the spot on Camelback by flying me there in his helicopter. I met him at his house to discuss his plan and what he thought would be the best way to get me to the spot.
He suggested that we travel to Camelback so that I could show him the exact spot that I wanted to be able to access. I have a wheelchair-accessible van, so I offered to drive. Doug replied, “No, let’s take the chopper!” That was a surprise, but they are words almost anyone would be excited to hear.
As we flew around Camelback Mountain, I was able to locate the spot and show it to him. I pointed to the lone tree on Camelback’s back and said “There, that’s where I proposed to her”. He said that he could easily drop me off and pick me up at that spot.
My new friend Doug was happily willing to fly me to the proposal spot….the sheriff’s office approved it, but the city’s parks department was not as agreeable. They were afraid that other people might try to do something similar and it would wreak havoc on the beautiful mountainside and rankle the nerves of residents who lived at the base of the mountain. I wholeheartedly agree with them.
Doug, being quite resourceful, contacted a charitable organization called Daring Adventures. They assembled a team of about 40 people, most of whom were from the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association (CAMRA), along with some friends. Those two organizations and friends were instrumental in making this endeavor happen. They had a litter that I sat in, much like a recumbent trike. It had 8 handles around it for the carriers to hold onto to balance and carry me.
We met on Sunday morning, March 30th at 8 am. We were joined by a local news reporter, cameraman, friends, family, and 40 of my new friends! I was helped into the litter and off we went! They even assigned a hiker to assist Karen in hiking up the arduous trail.
The morning air was crisp and cool. The desert was in full bloom from our recent rains. As the group started moving on the narrow trail, I felt the light breeze bringing the fragrance of wildflowers to my nose. We were experiencing a Super-bloom that Spring. There were yellow, orange, and purple flowers everywhere. The desert grasses on the mountainside were green and lush. It made “our” spot the perfect setting to recommit our love for each other.
I asked Karen if she would marry me all over again and she didn’t hesitate when she said “Yes!”. We had a friend pray for us and serve us communion as we pondered the importance of our vows before God.
I knew it was going to be an emotional morning, celebrating our marriage and how God has protected and grown our relationship over the years. When I think back on all the blessings that have come our way since my ALS diagnosis, this one stands out among the top! It fits well with my life motto – Love Life, Live Life!
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